business pages

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Subscriber pages
buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Demo pages
Here's a sample of what only subscribers see

Subscribe now
Subscribe to both hardcopy or internet editions of NNSL publications

Our print and online advertising information, including contact detail.

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Learning the ropes in Norman Wells

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 14, 2011

NORMAN WELLS - Even on a Thursday in February, the Norman Wells Historical Centre is buzzing with visitors as it's the perfect place to immerse yourself in details about the community.

NNSL photo/graphic

Amanda Foster is both new to the community of Norman Wells and staff of the visitor centre and museum. - photo courtesy of Amanda Foster

Amanda Foster, who is new to town, is taking advantage of the centre, but she isn't there as a tourist. Instead, the 27 year old is the newest member on staff, working as an interpreter. Foster spends her days learning about her new home so she can answer questions about the community and point visitors, such as the ones visiting from Edmonton last week, in the direction they want to explore.

The centre is open year-round with the summer months serving as the busy tourist season.

In November, Foster moved from Ottawa to Norman Wells where her parents live. She decided the local visitor centre and museum was a good place to work and to become familiar with the community.

"I was moving up here and they were hiring. It's a good way to learn about Norman Wells right away," said Foster.

She said she is immersing herself in the culture and history of the area, learning, both on her own and through people's questions about the Norman Wells oil fields, the Canol Project, the geology of the area and local crafts and artwork.

There is a wealth of information at the centre for Foster to explore both in the craft shop and the museum, including traditionally-embroidered moccasins, mitts, miniature replicas of Dene tools, films and books. She can then share the information she absorbs with the visitors.

"People ask why it's called Norman Wells, how to get to places or they want maps of the area. Everyone has questions," said Foster of the predominantly out-of-town visitors to the facility.

"They ask what kind of stone is what, where it comes from, where it originated from. The job is just about getting to know things that are here and who made them. It's all going to come in time," she said.

She said over time, she has noticed retaining the pieces of history about the area has become easier.

"Once the questions come more and more, then I'll be like 'Oh yeah, somebody asked that before.'"

Foster's favourite part of the job is speaking with the people who step into the centre everyday.

"I love hearing their stories and where they're from. Everyone's from somewhere else so that's kind of neat," she said.

Besides immersing herself in the history and culture of Norman Wells, Foster is also learning about the present community.

"Coming from Ottawa to a town of 800, it's overwhelming. Everybody knows everybody. It's strange because people wave to you when they drive by. You pass somebody and they say 'Hello.' In Ottawa, you don't look at the person," said Foster.

"It's such a difference. I'm still adjusting but people are definitely friendly over here."

Frequently asked questions

Population of Norman Wells?

761 (2006 census)

Why is it called Norman Wells?

In 1920 Imperial Oil discovered a petroleum deposit near the settlement of Fort Norman and began drilling for oil. The well site eventually became the Town of Norman Wells. The abundance of oil in the region was well known in the area even before Alexander Mackenzie travelled there in the late 1700s. The Dene of the region used the oil seep to waterproof their canoes and called the area Lli Goline, which translates into where the oil is.

What is the Canol Trail?

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941 the United States government was concerned about a Japanese invasion on Alaska. In defense, the Americans began constructing the Alaska-Canadian Highway to create a supply route. The construction required a lot of oil and three months after the highway was approved the Canadian Oil (Canol) Project was born.

The project's objectives were to increase oil production at the Norman Wells field to 3,000 barrels a day, build a refinery in Whitehorse and then build a pipeline from Norman Wells. Completed in 1944 the project was shutdown in 1945 when the war ended and was abandoned. The trail runs for more than 200 miles from Macmillan Pass at the eastern edge of the Yukon Territory to Norman Wells.

Sources: Norman Wells Historic Centre. Alberta Heritage

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.